WHEN this new, swanky, Japanese-style speakeasy in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, was recommended to me, I was excited.
There is only a dim, yellow light marking the entrance to Yokai but once you open the door and look up the staircase, you will know you are in the right place.
Purple neon lights lead you up to a cosy bar and restaurant adorned with Japanese ornaments and artwork from the owner’s collection.
There is even a katana (Japanese sword) on one end of the wall, that’s complemented by the samurai statue standing guard at the stylish bar.
I imagine this would be similar to a modern, chic Tokyo bar.
In Japanese folklore, yokai is a class of supernatural entities and spirits; some say it refers to apparitions.
The absence of outlet signage lends itself to the speakeasy concept, and obscures the bar from the neighbourhood.
But fret not, the vibes here are good, mostly from the chef at the teppanyaki counter and the in-house mixologist who will shake up one of the bar’s signature cocktails.Before sitting down to enjoy the drinks and food, a tour around the restaurant is a must.
Check out the two private rooms located behind a hidden door: the Samurai and Sakura rooms.
In the Sakura room, a shoji panel is decorated with distinctly Japanese emblems: the crimson circle of “Land of the Rising Sun” as the backdrop for Hokusai’s masterpiece Great Wave off Kanagawa while another panel bears stylised artwork of a woman with an umbrella.
High chairs elevate diners closer to the illuminated panels.
The Samurai room has a plush leather sofa and doubles as a karaoke room for anyone to enjoy.
The special feature here is a one-way mirror where you can see who is entering the restaurant via the staircase, which adds a whimsical mystery to the dining experience.
Food at Yokai is a fusion of Asian and Western elements.
The long teppanyaki bar lets you watch the cooks expertly grilling your choice of protein to charred perfection.
They use truffle butter and yuzu, adding an innovative touch to the teriyaki flavours of the meat.
Sauces are also interesting, a good balance of Asian and Western flavours.
The chef recommended the sando (sandwiches) – one with oxtail and one with chicken, seafood teppanyaki and vegetable tempura.
Also recommended was the Mushroom Pasta suitable for vegetarians.
The Wagyu Pasta was bursting with creamy, umami flavours but it wasn’t overwhelming.
As for the much anticipated cocktails, we had the bestseller “Yes-Ser”, a concoction of premium whiskey, agave, Fernet-Branca (Italian bitters) and apple cider served in a smoky dome.
There is an element of theatre when the dome is lifted and you get a whiff of the smoky aroma as you sip from the glass that sits on a lit coaster.
Next was the slightly dessert-type cocktail called “Say Cheese San”, vodka mixed with orange marmalade, orange puree and bitters served with cheesecake foam.
If you are a gin lover, the Gin Pinkuiro or Gin Rose is a must-try.
It looks simple but has a special personality.
Gin, Martini Bianca Vermouth, Pinkuiro syrup and celery bitters make up this drink, and it’s served with a delightful and refreshing pink-hued Vermouth caviar.
Yokai is open for lunch and serves bento lunch boxes, fusion pastas and Asian dishes.
YOKAI, No.25, First Floor, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. (Business hours: Tuesday to Sunday, noon to 2.30pm, 6pm to 11.30pm). Tel: 03 7733 3030.
This is the writer’s personal observation and is not an endorsement by StarMetro.